Civil war begins
With the presidential election of 1860 came the political manifestation of these differences between north and south. The Republican Party entered the campaign with perfect unity. In an enthusiastic convention in Chicago, they nominated Abraham Lincoln, the party's most popular midwestern figure. Party spirit climbed to high pitch, and a stern determination animated the millions of voters who proclaimed that they would allow slavery to spread no further. The party also promised a tariff for the protection of industry and appealed to land-hungry northerners with a pledge that it would enact a law granting free homesteads to settlers. The opposition, on the other hand, was disunited and, on Election Day, Lincoln and the Republicans were borne to triumph.
It was a foregone conclusion that South Carolina would secede from the Union if Lincoln were elected, for the state had long been awaiting an occasion that would unite the south in a new confederacy. As soon as the election results were certain, a specially summoned South Carolina convention declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of 'The United States of America' is hereby dissolved." The lower southern states immediately followed, and on February 8, 1861, they formed the Confederate States of America.
Less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated into the presidency of the United States. In his inaugural address, he refused to recognize the secession, considering it "legally void." His speech closed with an eloquent and touching plea for a restoration of the ancient bonds of affection. But the south did not hear his plea, and on April 12, guns opened fire on Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. All hesitation was now swept from the minds of the northerners. Drums beat in every town and village, and everywhere young men rushed to arms. Meanwhile, with equal fervor, the people of the seven seceded states responded to the appeal of their president, Jefferson Davis. Few foresaw the horror and magnitude of the struggle ahead. Yet before the war was over, approximately 800,000 individuals fought on the southern side. and from two to three times as many on the northern. Of the latter number, over 50,000 white men and more than 100,000 Negroes were recruited from within the seceded states.
Both sections anxiously awaited the action of those slave states which had thus far continued loyal. Virginia took the fateful step on April 17, and Arkansas and North Carolina followed quickly. No state left the Union with greater reluctance than did Virginia, Her statesmen had not only been indispensable to the winning of independence and the framing of the Constitution, but she had also furnished the nation with five Presidents. With Virginia went Colonel Robert E. Lee who declined the command of the Union Army out of loyalty to his state. Between the enlarged Confederacy and the free-soil north lay the border states which, proving unexpectedly nationalist in sentiment, kept their bonds with the Union.
The people of each section entered the war with high hopes for an early victory. In material resources, however, the north enjoyed a decided advantage. Twenty-three states with a population of 22,000,000 were arrayed against eleven, inhabited by 9,000,000. The industrial superiority of the north even exceeded its preponderance in manpower. Unlike the rural south, the northern states had abundant facilities for the manufacture of arms and ammunition, clothing, and other supplies. Similarly the rapid spread of rail mileage in the north contributed to federal military success. The Confederacy, on the other hand, was a compact, well watered territory. Since the fighting was on its own soil, it could protect its military front with a minimum of exertion and upon a smaller war budget than the north.